WAS PHARAOH A PAWN?
Lord God, Your Word is true and altogether trustworthy. In that faith I come to study it today.
Read EXODUS 6:28 – 7:13
Aaron to Speak for Moses
28 Now when the Lord spoke to Moses in Egypt, 29 he said to him, “I am the Lord. Tell Pharaoh king of Egypt everything I tell you.”
30 But Moses said to the Lord, “Since I speak with faltering lips, why would Pharaoh listen to me?”
7 Then the Lord said to Moses, “See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron will be your prophet. 2 You are to say everything I command you, and your brother Aaron is to tell Pharaoh to let the Israelites go out of his country. 3 But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in Egypt, 4 he will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and with mighty acts of judgment I will bring out my divisions, my people the Israelites. 5 And the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring the Israelites out of it.”
6 Moses and Aaron did just as the Lord commanded them. 7 Moses was eighty years old and Aaron eighty-three when they spoke to Pharaoh.
Aaron’s Staff Becomes a Snake
8 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, 9 “When Pharaoh says to you, ‘Perform a miracle,’ then say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and throw it down before Pharaoh,’ and it will become a snake.”
10 So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did just as the Lord commanded. Aaron threw his staff down in front of Pharaoh and his officials, and it became a snake. 11 Pharaoh then summoned wise men and sorcerers, and the Egyptian magicians also did the same things by their secret arts: 12 Each one threw down his staff and it became a snake. But Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs. 13 Yet Pharaoh’s heart became hard and he would not listen to them, just as the Lord had said.
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Thank God for patiently leading you back when you have walked away from Him. Ask Him to point out ways in which you may still be wandering outside His will.
God’s dealings with Pharaoh raise hard questions about hard-heartedness. We wonder if Pharaoh was just a pawn in some divine power play. The text refers both to Pharaoh hardening himself against God1 and to God hardening Pharaoh’s heart.2 This can feel like one of those chicken-and-egg situations where we struggle to figure out which comes first!
How should we understand God’s words, ‘I will harden Pharaoh’s heart’ (v 3)? First, verses 3–5 make it clear that God is going to do something – in the lives of Pharaoh, the Egyptians and the Israelites. Second, these predictions of what God will do deal with final outcomes – how things will turn out ultimately, not immediately. In between, God provides ample time and opportunity for Pharaoh to relent, to repent, to respond with humility and faith to God’s revelation of Himself through signs and wonders. Third, it is evident that Pharaoh has closed himself to God. There are ‘those who say to God, “Thy will be done”, and those to whom God says, “All right, then, have it your way.”’3 Pharaoh falls into the latter category. ‘God’s hardening of him was a judicial act, abandoning him to his own stubbornness, much as God’s wrath against the ungodly is expressed by “giving them over” to their own depravity.’4 The hardening is, therefore, the result of a dual action: Pharaoh’s resolve to live life his way and God’s resolve to let him do so.
God’s sovereignty and human responsibility don’t function as two forces pulling in opposite directions but as two sides of a coin. We are responsible for our choices – and, in God’s universe, those choices have consequences. A series of bad choices may take us to that perilous point where repentance seems no longer even possible.
Pray for receptive and responsive hearts in those who will be hearing God’s message through various means during this coming month.
Heavenly Father, my heart’s desire is to be a follower who says to You, “Your will be done”, not one to whom You say, “Your will be done”!
1 Exod 8:15,32; 9:7,34 2 Exod 4:21; 9:12; 10:1; 11:10 3 CS Lewis, The Great Divorce, Bles, 1945, p75 4 Stott, The Message of Romans, IVP, 1994, p269